Decluttering

I Bought Nothing for Four Months and This Is What Happened

I thought I didn’t really shop that much. Boy, was I wrong!

During a retreat I attended at a dude ranch in Idaho, I came across an energetic speaker from Australia who shared his experience of not buying anything for a period of one year, and how it changed his perspective on the material world. Although I cannot recall the details of his talk, what did resonate with me was this process of limiting one’s “intake”. Was I buying too much? Don’t I already have enough? Having already started my journey towards decluttering all areas of my life, this made sense as the next initiative. Apart from giving things away, I had to stop the inflow of new things too.

I came back that summer, and decided that from September 1 to December 31 of that calendar year, I would stop all purchases. The only exceptions were food, gifts for others and tennis strings in case mine broke (however if the racquet broke for whatever reason, that was not allowed to be replaced).

I thought I did not shop much, but boy, was I wrong! During the first week, I had to stop myself on several occasions from picking up a magazine or a small item here or there. Bottom line: all the little things add up to a lot! The only way to get through this exercise more easily was to do it through a heightened state of awareness. To elaborate, I would consciously distance myself and observe what was happening in me before taking any action. I would remind myself of this decluttering exercise and ask myself—‘Is this a need, or a want?’ In pretty much every scenario, it was a want.

What happened over the next few months was very interesting, to say the least. Previously, I would walk by a store and look at the window display and stop when something would catch my attention. I would then evaluate the item, looking at the quality and price and then determine whether it was affordable, and if it was, when I could look to add it to my collection. Halfway through the ‘no shopping’ exercise, I just stopped looking (with the exception of stunning displays which were more aesthetic than anything else).

During the exercise, I started making a list of items I would buy from January 1 onward during the sale (since that made me feel good that I was saving money). What happened during the exercise, however, was that I started crossing items off the list. After giving it more time and asking myself ‘Is this a want or a need?’ I realised it wasn’t really a need at all. Was I buying more on impulse before? While giving this more thought, I concluded that not buying a ‘want’ item was true savings, rather than buying at a discount.

The icing on the cake was that I got to spend more time with my loved ones and I increased my level of focus since the clutter of materialism was no longer blurring my vision.

I have been told that by losing my desire to buy non-essential items, I have lost my drive to earn money. On the contrary, I now have the desire to earn more than ever, because the more I earn, the more I can give away. That, however, is for another day.

Who would have thought that an exercise as simple as stopping all purchases could add so many benefits to my life? To make your life simpler, I have included the four benefits below:

  1. I now have a better understanding of wants versus needs. I realised that I actually need very little.
  2. I have more free time to spend on my passions
  3. I am saving money
  4. I have greater focus on the things that matter most

When are you going to begin your journey of decluttering your material world?

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